The Last Photo of Walt Disney at Disneyland Park

George Savvas

by , Director, Public Relations, Disneyland Resort

On this day 45 years ago, the world mourned the loss of one of the 20th Century’s greatest visionaries and most beloved figures, Walt Disney. Just a couple months earlier, in the fall of 1966, Walt had publicity photos taken at Disneyland park. Joined by Mickey Mouse at Sleeping Beauty Castle in the Disneyland Fire Department “Engine No. 1,” Walt was photographed by my former colleague, Disneyland Chief Photographer, Renie Bardeau, who retired in 1998. That day, Renie took what would be the final photographs of Walt Disney at Disneyland park.

Prior to his retirement, Renie told the Los Angeles Times, “There is a little story of when I was shooting that particular picture. It was shot on a Rolleiflex, and there are 12 pictures on a roll. I had shot 11 pictures of Walt at different angles… watching for his smile, watching to make sure Mickey was looking the right way, making sure the (castle) spires weren’t hanging out of Mickey’s ears. Anyway, I had shot 11 pictures, and I had said, ‘Thank you, Walt, that’s it.’ He asked me if I was sure, and I told him I was. He then told me that at the Studio we treat film like paper clips. You shoot, shoot, shoot all the film you need because if it’s not in the can, you will never have it. So he asked me to shoot one more. So, I shot one more and he said, ‘That’s fine, thank you, Renie,’ and he walked away.”


Over time, the photo has become an iconic image of Walt, but few people know that it was the last time we saw him at his beloved Disneyland.

The memorable portrait was recreated for the “Happiest Faces On Earth” photo-mosaic murals featured throughout the park during our 50th Anniversary celebration in 2005. It hung in the foyer of the Main Street Opera House and is now seen by cast members every day as they pass through the lobby of the Team Disney building at the Disneyland Resort.

Every morning when I see it I’m reminded of the rich legacy Walt left the world, and in particular to those of us lucky enough to spend every day at the place he loved so much.



  • This photo is MY Disney tradition. Every year my hubby takes my photo standing to the left of Mickey as I wave. THIS is what I plan on seeing every year. Walt was the grandfather I never had. Mine had both died before I knew them so reruns of the “Wonderful World..” showed my imaginary grandpa every Sunday night. I wish it was a photopass. Thank you Walt for a wonderful family reunion every year.

  • thanks for sharing the background on this photo!!! Its actually one of my favorites!!
    One of my all time favorite disney (non walt photos indirectly) is the Crying Mickey which is also 45 yrs old this yr along with me!
    Soon After Walt left us all on that Thursday morning in California? A baby girl was born in a suburb of South of Boston Ma and that girl grew up loving anything and everything Disney especially items pertaining to the Great man who passed away some minutes before her arrival!! that Girl is Me!!

    Thank you Walt for my Love of Disney that Cold afternoon in December )time difference accounted for)

  • #15 Johann from CA
    I hope you’re right.

  • The World is a Happier Place with having Walt in it, God Bless You Walt Disney!

  • We are very grateful for his vision of a Disney utopia. Every time we walk thru the gates of Disneyland, we are reminded that a great man made it possible for us to leave behind the real world, and enter his.

  • Thank you Walt for a lifetime of memories. I can’t imagine this world without the influences of the Disney touch. I love having everything you did for entertainment in my life!

  • This man has brought so much joy to my life over the years I can’t begin to describe it! The first movie I was allowed to go to alone was Babes in Toyland and totally fell in love with the fantasy (and Annette, of course!).
    Over the years I have collected Disney items and finally in my fifties I had a chance to FINALLY visit The Magic Kingdom in Florida.
    I stood with hundreds in front of the station watching the opening ceremonies that day and thought how nice it made me feel, but then a train whistle was heard in the distance. It came around the bend and who’s up there but Mickey himself! I started to cry! A grown man in his fifties! The friend I was with looked at me, and then realized what was happening and gently squeezed my arm, as it to say “I know”….the tears continued as I took that first walk through the tunnel and into the town square. I had to sit on a bench for a few minutes and take it all in.
    I went back twice that trip and have been back every year since, just to make sure it’s still there! Thank you Walt – thank you very very much. You will be thought of always.

  • micky’s hands were small back then,…

  • Thank you for sharing! He was truly a visionary and is greatly missed. I can only imagine the things he would have accomplished had he lived on. Heaven must be a more wonderful place with him there!

  • I was walking home from school when I heard of his passing. It was such a sad moment from my childhood. Other’s of my generation talk about JFK and Martin Luther King, but it was the loss of Walt Disney that I to this day remember the most.

  • I’m 46 years young and people might think I’m funny in that I love “Disney”. It’s more the way he changed the world with his parks and his movies and just his strong mind set of making the “Happiest Place On Earth”!!!

  • Thank you, Walt, for giving us the “Happiest Place on Earth”!

  • I remember the day that Walt Disney died very well! I was six years old and was very distraught when I heard the news. Through my tears, I asked my parents who would look after Disneyland now that Walt was gone! Even though I lived in the L.A. area, I wasn’t taken to Disneyland, for the first time, until the following year. I STILL remember that magical first trip and always will! My parents were right…..Disneyland WOULD be well cared for, even though Walt wasn’t there to do it himself!
    This last spring I returned with my husband and son, to enjoy our son’s first visit. During our two days there, I couldn’t but help think, “Walt would be very proud of what this has all become!” Thank you all for what you do so very, very well….put smiles on peoples faces and help us create lifetime family memories!!

  • That Wonderful Smile always keeps me going. I miss Uncle Walt everyday of my Life and remember him fondly with Love and respect.

  • In my book, Walt Disney is a Saint. One of my favorite spots in Disneyland is right in front Walt & Mickey’s statue, with Cinderella’s Castle in the background.

  • Thank you Walt Disney for giving me and my family some of our favorite vacations at Disney World.

  • Although he passed away before I was born, I like to think of Walt Disney as the grandfather that I never got to have. I thank him when ever I get to go to Walt Disney World–I thank every picture of him that I see. For it is because of him and his marvelous imagination that I get to be at the Happiest Place on Earth having the best time in my life. I worked there for 2 years, a dozen or so years ago, and I thanked him every day I got to go to work too. I gave my son the same middle name as Walt Disney, as he will always hape a place in my heart!

  • I vividly remember watching “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” on Sunday nights on our family’s first color television in 1960. So many of us baby-boomers were raised on Walt’s wholesome programming and incomparable feature films….a trip to Disneyland was always the crowning glory of any vacation to Southern California….Just had the enjoyable opportunity to celebrate my 55th birthday last weekend watching the Main Street Christnas Parade, fireworks, and the holiday spirit of the crowds at the “Happiest Place on Earth!”….I estimate this was probably my 45th trip to Disneyland!!!

  • Thank You Walt. You have touched us all.

  • If only I could have met him. My first chance for any vacation is Disney Resorts in Florida. This april I might actually make it to Disney in California. That would be totally awsome.

  • Thank you for sharing the history of this photo, as favorite of mine. His legacy is no doubt here to stay. He was such an amazing person. Thank you for sharing this story on the blog. : )

  • This story brought tears to my eye. Walt died long before I was born, but I will always miss him. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thank you for sharing that story. I have a picture in front of that photo mosiac picture when it was hanging in Disneyland and I will treasure that pic forever!!! I love Disneyland and we lost a dear treasure when Walt Disney died.

  • What a great story! Thanks for sharing with us, George. I love this blog for stories like this.

  • The spirit of Walt Disney is present in both the park and the hearts of his Guests. We look up at the lamp in the apartment window and say a silent thank you each time we visit.

  • I am so glad I was able to be a part of the legacy he has created, even if I was only a part of it for a short time. I look up to this great man in so many ways. He truly is one of my biggest heros in life.

  • We’ll be going to the park today- thanks for the blog…. it will give our trip special meaning!!

  • What a great smile. Thanks Walt for the magic that you brought to this world!

  • Thank you for sharing the background on this iconic photo of Walt and Mickey. I wish I could have met Walt before he died, but I think his legacy is still with us in many ways.

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